Nikolai Grigoryevich Rubinstein was a Russian pianist, conductor, and composer of the mid nineteenth century, of Jewish lineage, who converted to Orthodox Christianity with his family. He was the younger brother of Anton Gregryevich Rubinstein.
Nikolai was born on June 14, 1835 in Moscow, Russia. About 1840, the Rubinstein family became Orthodox Christians at the direction of his paternal grandfather. Nikolai began his musical career under the tutorship of his mother, an accomplished musician herself. He continued his musical education under a number of teachers including Theodore Kullak, Siegfried, and Alexander Villoing. To avoid military conscription, he studied medicine at the Moscow University, graduating in 1855.
He founded the Russian Musical Society in 1859 and the Moscow Conservatory in 1866 for which he hired Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, who was a new graduate from the St. Petersburg Conservatory. Nikolai conducted the premiere of Tchaikovsky's opera Eugene Onegin in 1879. Nikolai was also associated with the music group "The Five".
Nikolai was considered one of the greatest pianists of his time, although, later, his reputation was overshadowed by that of his older brother Anton. Although he dismissed his music as "unimportant", Nikolai was also a composer of some note.
Nikolai died of tuberculosis in Paris, France on March 23, 1881.